BOSCOBEL - Lori Roling’s birthday wishes came true this year. She asked her husband for a pair of waders, and on January 22, she got them. Roling’s not a fisherwoman. She wanted the waders to aid in her personal mission to clean the garbage out of Boscobel’s Sanders Creek.
Sanders Creek is a cheerful little spring-fed trout stream that originates a mile or so out of Boscobel on County Road S and terminates in the Wisconsin River. Along the way it takes a crooked jaunt under Fremont Street, past the elementary school and post office, and loops around the entire north end of town. And for most of that run, it is accompanied by a walking path, which was constructed in the 1990s.
It was on this path that Roling’s mission was born. “In January 2021, I set a goal of 52 hikes in a year. It got me out of the house, and I just picked different places. One of my last hikes was Sanders Creek, and I just noticed there’s a lot of trash in the water,” said Roling, who works as a nurse at Pine Valley Community Village in Richland Center.
When the snow melted off, Roling put on her new waders and set to work.
It didn’t take long for folks to find out. “I heard about it from the lady who’s doing the beautification project downtown,” said Boscobel’s mayor, Brenda Kalish. “I called Lora up and said I’d like to help. I talked to [city engineer] Mike Reynolds, and he said, ‘Well, if you want to clean it out and put it on the bank, we’ll have the street crew pick it up.”
Kalish joined Roling and a few friends she’d recruited on April 25. “We did about two hours,” Roling said. “The temp was about 45 that day, and I had filled my boots with water.” The haul that day was more than 4 garbage bags and a stray 2-by-4.
In addition to everyday litter, recent flooding and last summer’s tornado added to the mess. Roling has found shower curtains, an entire car cover, and other storm debris that ended up in the creek.
“People say, well it’s just a little creek. But it empties in the Wisconsin, and that empties in the Mississippi. Nobody knows where our garbage might end up,” Roling mused.
Last week, Roling put up a private Facebook group, “Friends of Sanders Creek,” in hopes of recruiting more volunteers. More than 30 people signed up in the first week. She plans to convene the group on May 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the Boy Scout cabin to chart out a plan to get the whole creek cleaned out. A workday will follow on June 6.For Roling, the benefits of this work run deeper than mere beautification. “We lost a lot with Covid,” she explained. “We don’t have neighborhood parties anymore. We need something we can work together on. We need to rebuild our community.”